(I am struggling with a new policy regarding families that are seeking refuge in the United States that are being separated from their children.)
“Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world. Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in his sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
Many of us are quite familiar with these lyrics from the hymn composed by C. Herbert Woolston and George F. Root. Jesus was pretty clear about his love and concern for children. The Gospel of Matthew relates a couple of instances where Jesus puts children at the center of his thoughts about the Kingdom of God.
“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ . . . And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” (Matthew 10:13-14, 16)
And in another passage, “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2-4)
One of the true blessings being a pastor are the occasions when I baptize a child, and welcome her into the community of Jesus Christ. And on those occasions I remind the family as well as the congregation that we all have the responsibility to help raise that child so that she will know the love and compassion of Jesus.
We are the models of faith for our children. We are to be the nurturers of our children.
If that seems like a pretty big responsibility, it is. The problem is no one has given us the manual on how to do that. The thing I learned as a first time parent was, by the time I knew how to care for a two year old, that two year old had become five years old! Which is why, in many cultures, the task of raising the children is something the whole community is a part of.
And so it is, it seems, with Jesus’ understanding of the role the faith community plays in raising children.
But Jesus also turns the tables on us by saying we must BE like children even as we welcome them, care for them, raise them. And so we ask what that means. What does it mean to be like a child? I’ve heard, and preached, many sermons on that topic. And like Oaccam’s Razor the simplest answer is usually correct.
A word about Oaccam’s Razor: The more accurate way of stating this principle is that entities should not be multiplied needlessly. That is to say, avoid adding information if the simpler explanation fits the observations. It is a process of pruning down information in order to more easily arrive at the truth.
There is a lot being written and spoken about children right now. Especially immigrant children. It’s a very emotional issue, one that most people have very clear feelings about. And also one in which there is a huge amount of disagreement. Information, accurate and not so accurate, is stacking up with no sensible solution in sight.
So, once again I turn to the model that helps me try to model what it means to be humane, to be human. Jesus Christ. He says be like a child. Children are vulnerable. They are trusting. They believe in miracles.
And they are a lot closer to God’s kingdom than we seem to think.